Monday, September 25

Avs coach Jared Bednar wishy-washy on starting goalie after 6-2 blowout loss

TAMPA, Fla. — Burnt like toast and thrown under the bus by his coach, how do the Avs ever trust goalie Darcy Kuemper again? This is a choice Jared Bednar cannot get wrong, unless Colorado wants to blow its best chance to win the Stanley Cup since 2001.

After an embarrassing 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay, Bednar stubbornly refused to admit what we’ve long known: Kuemper doesn’t have what it takes to be a championship goalie.

“He didn’t have a good night, you know?” Bednar said Monday. “Neither did our team. We win as a team, lose as a team.”

So why be wishy-washy now, Mr. Bednar?

In the aftermath of a defeat that not only gave life to the two-time defending champs, but allowed Tampa Bay to cut its deficit in this best-of-seven series to 2-1, Bednar played it coy, refusing to either give Kuemper a vote of confidence or declare Pavel Francouz is between the pipes until further notice.

Sorry, but that’s a lousy excuse for leadership.

It seems to me the choice for Game 4 should be Francouz, who is 6-0 in the playoffs when given the chance to start in Kuemper’s absence.

Hoist the Cup? Kuemper couldn’t grab a beach ball before it bounces into the Gulf of Mexico. Left exposed by a lackadaisical Colorado defense and far too passive in response to Lightning scoring chances, Kuemper stopped only 17 of 22 shots before Bednar had seen enough.

“I felt like the goals we gave up, honestly we just didn’t make them earn,” Bednar said.

With eight minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the second period, and the arena horn blaring the news of the home team’s fifth goal, Bednar made a scapegoat of Kuemper. The coach sacrificed his rattled goaltender to the taunts of 19,092 raucous Lightning fans inside Amalie Arena as he yanked Kuemper and banished him to the team bench, with Francouz grabbing his gear and scurrying into action.

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If this was undeniably a total meltdown by Kuemper, it also was a flustered moment of panic by Bednar. He waited too long on making a move to Francouz to change the momentum of the game, dilly-dallying until removing Kuemper seemed more like punishment instead of an act of mercy.

Lightning never strikes twice? How about four times… in less than a 15-minute span of the second period, when everything that we presumed about this championship series got tossed in Tampa Bay?

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